Why a Day at the Ballpark, Minor League Style, Is Alright By Me
The Original Plan: to gather a bunch of my big brood of local sports-loving nieces and nephews and head to the ballpark for a day of family bonding, team rivalries (we’re fairly evenly split among the Mets-Yankees camps), popcorn, and beer (oh, and milk, for some). I didn’t think it’d be an impossible task—school was out for most, my husband and I offered to give the adults a break and take the kids off their hands for the better part of a day, and I gave what I thought was ample notice—a month-and-a-half in advance (who plans like that?!).
Well, it turned out not a single person related to us could come. Some were vacationing in Florida (which I thought was crazy till we were hit with stifling, humid air here in NYC, too…and with no beach). Others were at graduation parties, beginning summer jobs, or chilling out at the Jersey Shore. Still others were simply M.I.A. (I guess in the days of Facebook the formality of an RSVP isn’t abided anymore…).
But it turns out last-minute plans are ideal for some of our friends with kids. My husband’s two dearest friends from grade school—yes, he’s known them both since early elementary school, and they actually still really like each other!—live in Staten Island, and it’s normally so tough to coordinate all our schedules. The lure of some kid-friendly baseball right along the waterline in their home borough was enough of a draw to get us all together, though.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
We spent a late Sunday afternoon watching the Staten Island Yankees take on the Hudson Valley Renegades. We were lucky enough to catch a game that turned out to be the team’s first home win of the young season (9-1)—and to see an unusually high number of hits (11), which thrilled the kids in our crowd. Well, at least the older ones who had a sense of the game. My son, who was at his first baseball game, kept enthusiastically repeating “That was a nice catch,” which I assume he heard Daddy say early on—only thing was, he’d say it when a player made a catch…or a hit. With a father who put him in a pinstriped onesie, I have no doubt he’ll be up to speed by his third birthday this September.
For the youngsters in his age bracket—or those who just don’t care about sports at all—there is plenty to keep entertained. There’s a bounce house and some carnival-style games along the left-field side of the stadium, an amazingly cheap all-you-can-eat option that is hugely popular for group visits, constant goofy contests on the field between every bit of action, and the classic slingshot tees propelled into the audience.
My normally shy-at-first child could not wait to meet the mascots. We trolled the small stadium for these furry fellows, and caught Red while he was about to make his way down to the top of the dugout for “God Bless America”—and yet, he stopped to hug V, came back when V tugged at his jersey to show him the yo-yo he’d won earlier—even patiently waited while he got it unstuck from his little pocket—and then Red rushed down just in time to make the song! It’s all about keeping the fans happy at Richmond County Bank Ballpark, it seems (hurray for that).
V and I made a game out of spotting Scooter, the mascot named for Brooklyn-born, lifetime Yank Phil “Holy cow!!!!” Rizzuto, as we waited and waited for the friendly cow to make his way to our section. When that didn’t happen, we made our way to him near the home team dugout. My boy wasn’t happy, he was ecstatic, giggling and in awe that Scooter not only talked to him, but let him climb up in his lap for a hug. And as I was snapping pictures, happy for my son, I was also thinking how great it was that my mom must be looking down on us. I became a Yankee fan as a kid initially because of my mother’s affection for Rizzuto, then the team’s popular, energetic play-by-play announcer. My mom adored him—he was short like her, charmingly in love with his wife Cora, whom he talked about a lot, and made following the game fun. She would have been amused to see my boy hugging this bovine character named for her beloved Phil.
Why Minor League’s a Winning Proposition
As if fun, pure and simple, isn’t enough reason to head to the ballpark, here are a few other reasons minor league fanfare is alright by me:
• we got a little sun and vitamin D without the mess of sand or the angst of donning a bathing suit;
• it’s laidback enough that you can hold a full conversation while glancing at the game and not feel like you’re missing out too much;
• it’s compelling enough to grab any baseball fan’s attention and hold it;
• you might catch a real up-and-coming star (among those who’ve played for the Staten Island Yanks are Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang, and Melky Cabrera);
• cheering is yelling by any other name—something most kids don’t get to indulge in enough at home;
• it’s a totally affordable family outing;
• moms can wear baseball hats and ponytails because it’s baseball, after all—not because we haven’t had time to shower today.
Links You’ll Like
And get tips on how to bond with your nonathletic child (a trip to a minor league game is an excellent start) and ways to be a better coach for your child’s own team.